Another sign of the changing times? The Findlay Courier, formerly known (until the very early 80’s) as the Findlay Republican Courier, has a columnist named Alicia Kelso who writes things like this:

Questioning government is real patriotism

Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before. The name-calling that comes with being a tad bit against the grain, that is.

“Naive” and “loony left” are my favorites. And “young” when contextually used to mean “stupid” and “ignorant.”

Yawn. Sticks and stones may break my bones …

When the words do hurt me, however, is when I’m called “unpatriotic.” Or, by extension, “anti-American.”

It’s happened very few times in my life. Ironically, however, it happened when I thought I was being quite the poster child for patriotism — flexing my rights and basking in my freedoms.

When I marched in protest of the invasion of Iraq a year and a half ago, a formidable group on the sidelines accused me of such nationalistic abandonment. Never mind that I donned red, white and blue, carried a flag and made the decision to march in the first place because of the ambiguous pretenses behind the invasion.

The events that have taken place since that day — most notably the almost 1,000 American casualties, the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction, no “collaborative, operational” relationship between Iraq and Sept. 11, and murky exit strategies — have eased the burden of guilt such name-calling inevitably created.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of the perpetrators themselves have since begun questioning the war’s purpose. And if they stand by their convictions, then hopefully they’ll at least agree with me on one thing — the very ability I had to march while actively questioning my government and their very ability to openly, publicly disagree with me — is exactly what makes this country great and, consequently, what fuels my patriotism.

I’m aware that in some countries I (especially as a female) wouldn’t be able to speak or act with such political fervor. I’m also aware that in some countries, similar dissent is greeted by extreme, unfathomable punishments. Like beheadings.

I’ve watched a beheading twice on the big screen within the past two weeks. A brief, yet incredibly profound scene of one taking place in Saudi Arabia is spliced smack dab in the middle of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Although the specific scene is presented amidst a tirade of rhetoric accusing our president of being a cozy oil-hungry bedfellow with the Saudis, the vision made me appreciate living here an exponential amount. Even if I entertained the possibility of truth behind such rhetoric.

That’s why I was confused when my patriotism was once again called into question — by a single person — as I exited the theater. By seeing the movie, and especially spending money to do so, I was void of American sentiment, according to him.

Do I agree with all of Moore’s accusations? No. Was my vote solidified before I saw the film? Probably. Is it fair? I’m not sure it ever promised to be, as its marketing has been marinated with the director’s disposition since day one.

Is it powerful? You bet. Emotional? Deeply. Important? As the first documentary to top the $100 million mark, it’s popular culture significance cannot be doubted.

No matter. The fierce division spawned by the film is based on whether or not it’s necessary.

Because Moore can make it and because we can watch it, yes.

Across the political spectrum throughout history, the actions of commanders-in-chief have been put under the microscope and criticized. Plenty on the right have done it — from Limbaugh to O’Reilly — reaching an audience far larger than those who will ever see “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Why the criticism? Because they not only can do it, but they care enough to do it. That’s love.

At a historically significant time, when politics are evenly split, yet ideals are increasingly polarized, it is absolutely necessary to protest, dissent — to question.

It’s such questioning that keeps this country in check, that reiterates its people’s optimism. Because we can question, we can perpetually believe there is something better and work toward it accordingly.

Disagree? Show off your best patriotic side and counter my vote.

It will speak volumes louder than name-calling.

And that’s not a fluke. Go to the Opinion section of the web site (it’s set up oddly, so I can’t point you directly there) and check out the titles of some of her other columns.

I harbor no illusions. This part of Ohio is still “Bush Country.” But dissenters are starting to speak up, and that’s very encouraging to me!


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